United States Army Captain Joseph Lapointe is not coming home for Christmas this year. He is presently deployed to Afghanistan and his story is similar to many service men and women stationed in a war zone. This year, Lapointe will work on Christmas Day, half a world away from the people who love him and the country he has sworn to protect.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Scott Hume, an infantryman, was deployed to Iraq in 1990. Christmas Eve was spent at a freezing-cold, wet practice range waiting for the army chief of staff to arrive. He never showed. On Christmas Day they worked, all day.

Specialist Jesse Tremblay, who is with the Army Reserve’s 619th Transportation Company based in Auburn, Maine, has spent two Christmases in Iraq. He said that once he “had guard duty on Christmas Day at the dining facility. It was just like every other day in Iraq, except they gave us a half day off and we got to play some football.”

Also with the 619th, Staff Sergeant David Nelson has been to Iraq three times. During one deployment, he said, “My platoon had a holiday mission: we left on the 23rd and came back for the holiday meal on the 25th.”

Nelson added, “When you’re over there, the unit you’re with is your family.”

“We had a really tight platoon,” said Staff Sergeant Dana Plourde of the 619th. “We became family.”

For Plourde, the last of his three deployments in Iraq was the most difficult. Plourde got married between his second and third deployments and his wife, Nikki, became pregnant right before he left. Although he was allowed two days leave to come home for his son Paxton’s birth, he missed Paxton’s first Christmas. “We had Skype and AT&T phones, so I got to see my son,” but it wasn’t like being home, he said.

Amanda Perry, wife of Captain Benjamin Perry, commander of the 619th, which has units in both Auburn and Dexter, Maine, shared that, “Ben was deployed during Christmas of 2004, and I was sad because it was our first Christmas as husband and wife.” Captain Perry was “out on a mission [on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day] and we didn’t even get to talk on the phone,”  she said.

A sergeant and squad leader, as well as the civilian unit administrator, Shawn Larnach said the hardest part about being deployed during the holidays was “being away from my family.” During his 2009 deployment, Larnach woke up at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning so that he could be with his wife, Heather, and their two children via Skype as they opened their presents. He said that the experience was both “good and bad. Sometimes it made it much harder [because] it brought it home that we were 6,000 miles apart.”

According to Hume, whose deployment predated the invention of Skype, “A soldier’s favorite thing is a letter from home. Some guys got a lot, and some guys got none, but everyone took care of one another.”

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